Drug Detox Can Help With Prescription Drug Addiction, but Addiction Is Not Our Biggest Prescription Drug Problem

Drug Detox Can Help With Prescription Drug Addiction, but Addiction Is Not Our Biggest Prescription Drug Problem

Why are so many people dying or getting ill from prescription drugs? Although some prescription drugs cause addiction and dependency that may require drug detox, and may also lead to using illegal drugs or acquiring prescription drugs illegally, many of the deaths and events are from drugs that shouldn't be killers. So, why are they causing so much trouble? The answer may be surprising.

First, let's have a look at some of the facts surrounding deaths and 'serious events' caused by prescription drugs:

  • 106,000 hospital patients die every year from drugs that were properly prescribed and administered, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. That's 10 times the number of deaths caused by illegal drugs, many of which could have been prevented with medical drug detox, and, if needed, drug rehab.
  • A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies said that medication errors and side effects account for $3.5 billion in hospital costs each year.
  • About 1.5 million "adverse drug events" occur in the U.S. every year, and about one-third of those are in outpatient settings such as clinics and doctors' offices, also according to the IOM. Again, it's likely that most of these events did not involve prescription drug addiction or dependency that required drug detox.
  • The American Medical Association reported that drug-related problems kill as many as 198,815 people every year, put 8.8 million in hospitals, and account for up to 28% of hospital admissions.

Why is this happening? Surprisingly, one of the major problems is that patients frequently don't know what drugs they're taking.

A recent study on blood pressure medication provides a good example: Researchers at Northwestern University's Institute for Healthcare Studies studied 119 patients who were taking blood pressure medication. They were first tested for their medical literacy - simple questions to determine their ability to follow instructions on how to take the drugs and so on - then they were asked to list the drugs they take, then their lists were compared to their medical records.

The results showed that between 40 and 68% of the patients did not know the names of any of the drugs they were taking - the less literate were at 68%, the more literate were at 40%.

Additionally, when the patients were able to list their drugs and their information was compared to their medical records, only about 40% of those with inadequate medical literacy correctly identified any of the drugs in their medical records. The numbers improved for those with adequate medical literacy, but only to about 65%.

What does this all mean? As all medical records are not necessarily correct or complete, doctors often rely on patient information about the drugs they're taking. Given the wrong information, doctors can prescribe other drugs that may be harmful when taken in combination with those the patient is already taking.

If you're taking drugs that cause addiction and dependency, getting off them might be advisable: consult with a medical professional in liaison with a medical drug detox program counselor to find out. However, for other drugs, it's important to get together with your doctor - bring the actual bottles of your drugs with you to the doctor's office - to make sure the drugs you're taking are safe for you by themselves, and in combination.

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